Archives for posts with tag: Do it yourself

We all do it. Don’t be ashamed. If you know how to knit, you have some… FAILED KNITTING.

An anecdote: A friend of mine announced she was pregnant with her second child. In anticipation, I bought a pattern for a cute little sweater. Friend had baby: A girl! So I bought some pink-ish wools and started in.

A year later, it evolved into a first-birthday gift.

Many other years later, it evolved into something for one the child’s dolls, perhaps.

Yet more years later… and I will be incorporating the pieces and bits of knit into some scarves.

I have done something like this a couple of times before. Once I felted an unfinished knit charity quilt-square (I missed the deadline, of course) into the end of a scarf. Here is a photo of the finished scarf:

my scarf!

I have more recently created a similar scarf. This time I used a finished, knitted scarf I wasn’t happy with, and sewed on (by hand!) some ruffly chiffon. I have this for sale on my Etsy page for a few days, and if it doesn’t sell it is MINE.

a knitted scarf and some chiffon find a new life together

Some of us just aren’t true knitters. We can’t find happiness with what we make; however we are continually drawn to trying again and again. The path to peace within the realm of knitting is perhaps in finding a mixed-media outlet for yourself. Sew on knitting. Felt with knitting. Re-purpose knitted bits. Go on, you can do it. Do It Yourself.

knitted bits of pinky wool will find their ways into scarves

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

*note this would work with crochet, too… and there’s nothing stopping you from making something like a cup-cosy out of your little knit and crochet bits. Small is good…


scarf with rescued materials in it

Go to any craft fair, fashion expo, or design show these days and you will undoubtedly find upcycled clothing. Old garments, say for example a beautiful coat or sweater that developed wear and tear over the years, could be combined with another garment to be new, fresh, and exciting.

In Montreal, there is a hip shop in the St Henri neighbourhood that caters to this idea. La Gaillarde features finished clothing by Montreal designers, as well as sewing/alteration classes in their sewing room. They also sell fabric remnants and used garments that are ready to be worn as-is, or upcycled into something more enticing.

At the Biodome in Montreal, every winter there is a craft fair that features crafts and clothing and all sorts of exciting things made out of over 75% post-consumer waste. Many of the offerings I saw last year were of better quality, more stylish, and clearly more functional than their brand new counterparts.

This article in the Guardian newspaper outlines some of the challenges that manufacturers and retail stores face in regards to textile waste. The manufacturers must be more responsible, and we as the purchasers of garments must be more accountable for what we do with them as we finish. It does take an effort. As the article says;

“…the various fibres that comprise clothing make reprocessing and recycling a challenge. Some materials such as cotton and linen can be composted, but petroleum-based fibres such as polyester have little chance for reuse. Few municipalities accept textiles into their recycling programmes… the result is a resource that is not as easily recyclable as aluminum cans, glass, or even plastic.”

scarf with unrecyclables

The ability to truly recycle textiles is rare. We will donate unwanted (but still wearable) clothing to charity, but what do we do when there are too many holes or stains? We usually throw them into the landfill… Though I am not anywhere near perfect in this regard, I have tried to save fabrics from this fate.

I make felt wool scarves, and have been incorporating bits of used fabrics into them. Also I like to take unrecyclable (yet durable) materials, such as plastic/foil catfood bags, and use them within the scarves, too. This is more fun than anything, but I hope that my efforts have diverted yet more toxic landfill from accumulating!

Check out some of the DIY ideas we posted over the last while on Fleurbain… you can use old garments for these things, too!


*Braided Rug

*Mittens, Cushions…

*Scented Sachets

And have some fun while you’re at it!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

creation during a previous workshop

The brains behind Fleurbain, Tammy Schmidt CHT and Natasha Henderson BFA, are pleased to announce an exciting new service: Customised Workshops.

Combine these two women’s talents for an inventive and innovative experience that is tailored to meet your needs. For groups, clubs, corporate teams, or just a gathering of friends, Tammy and Natasha will craft a unique workshop with the greatest of expertise and care.

Tammy is a Clinical Herbal Therapist with an extensive knowledge of herbal remedies. Outside of her clinical practice, she excels in creative Green ideas for the home, bath, and beauty. Let’s not forget that she is brilliant in herbal/cooking fusion! Tammy will encourage you to grow and create while you learn.

Natasha is a graduate from the Emily Carr Institute of Art in Vancouver, with experience in teaching painting, felt-making, crafting, and general creativity to groups of adults and children alike. Natasha is an empowering instructor who invites the potential in every student.

Fleurbain will come to your location for workshops, or we can meet in our central studio location. It’s up to you.

in the midst of cooking/herbal infusion

A very few ideas for your workshops: Herbal bath treatments and notebook making; Team-building mural painting with a herbal tea session; Puppet-making workshop for kids or adults; Painting with herbal pigments; Informative nature walk while drawing from nature; City-scape walks, seeking nature in an urban environment; Crafting workshops with groups. Check out the two-day experience we hosted recently, in which we steeped herbalism and crafting together to create a unique Spa Weekend.

creative learning through activity

The sky is not even the limit… Give us an email at to see what we can do together. Please provide dates and location desired for the workshop, as well as a rough idea of number of participants, their ages, and the purpose or reason for the workshop (eg team-building, fun event, educational, etc).  We will put together a package customized for you and your group.

Please note that we are in the Montreal area.

cat bun. i can not get enough of that little face!

A couple weeks ago, an acquaintance pulled out a glossy long landscape photo of exquisite mushrooms.  While looking at these giant puffballs, I realized that these photos are now a very rare thing.  The world has gone digital; we are able to see images on screens more often than images on paper.  Sometimes I wonder if I am doing things right, storing all of my favourite photos on my computer.  It may save on space, but is it going to be accessible in the future?  And as my brother stated this week, it is simply more satisfying to flip through a photo album than to click through one.  I agree.

Don’t get me wrong, digital photography has made it easy for everyone to be a better photographer.  We can now take as many photos as we like, and experiment a lot more.  There is not so much waste, as you don’t have to develop an entire roll of film in order to see if one photo turned out.

My DIY idea of the day is to consider good old fashioned photo development.  Yes, I can still keep a digital archive, but it is not so difficult to select photos that I like, edit them and take them to a photo developer.  I can even do all of this online and pick them up within an hour!  It is rare that I actually do this final step, but I am going to make a greater effort to do just this.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

This is a photo taken by me on Noida Flower sh...

calendula blossoms

I just watched The Story of Cosmetics (2010).  It reminded me of why I went down this road called herbalism.  I kept seeing myself and others buying into the hype on labels, and this hype had little or nothing to do with the contents. For example, we all know a successful company based on oatmeal (Avena sativa).  People buy into these products.  And it is really maddening if you read the ingredients on these products, you will see that they have little to do with oatmeal.

Herbalism is my attempt to keep it real, to see things for what they are, and to try using authentic, original ingredients.

It is kind of outrageous to see myself buying into the marketing hype of cosmetics, when in practice I would never do the same thing, for example, in cooking.  It is generally not my practice to make a meal that is ‘organic’, ‘herbal’ or ‘natural’, and then use ingredients that are none of those things!  It is most certainly not my practice to try to convince others that this sort of a meal is ‘organic food’ when I know it is not.  Actually, the sense of taste and smell are finely tuned instruments for detecting all sorts of things.  Though chemists can trick taste-buds and nasal passages, I doubt I could get away with it.  Moreover, that is simply not the point of feeding people.  If it’s a meal, the goal is to nourish.  The same sort of understanding could be applied to cosmetics. We should nourish our outsides – our skin! – with the same care as we do our insides!

So, I try to use the raw ingredients. I try to ensure that they are harvested and stored in a way that keeps them fresh and beneficial.  This is important for me because a therapy can fail if the ingredients are not the best.  If I am purchasing ingredients, then I try to buy the best on the market, within my budget, from likeminded folks who understand their ingredients.  I personally look for partners who are concerned for the earth and it’s inhabitants.   I can’t say that this is the easiest way, and I can’t say I do this perfectly; but I can say that there are moments of clarity and there are solutions. This comes down to using herbs with knowledge and imagination.

Today I would like to focus on tub tea.  Herbalists have been recommending tub tea for a long time.  Using a bath is a great way to nourish your largest organ, the skin.  And your skin is a great vehicle for getting good plant constituents (or toxic chemicals, if you wish) into the body.

Honestly, as I write this, I have to laugh.  It has been difficult to convince people to make a tea and then bathe in raw botanical ingredients.  I have suggested oatmeal for itchy, dry skin conditions; a couple times, I have received a hugely glazed over look from someone.   It is the messiness of raw ingredients. It is the lack of hype found in the typical bulk ingredients. And, perhaps, it is the imagination we can enjoy in using them.

Well, as I was shopping a few months ago, I found a new product: tub tea.  These are big tea bags filled with botanical ingredients used in a bath.  Now that we have a great name for it, I have a couple ideas for ingredients that you might want to try for making a DIY tub tea.

Let’s start with an oatmeal and blossoms blend.

Oatmeal (Avena sativa) – will help to calm itchy skin due to dryness.

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra) – cooling anti-inflammatory.  Excellent for weeping eczema and infant eczema.

Chamomile flowers (Matricaria recutita) nervine, anti-inflammatory, excellent for irritable states of being and irritated skin.  *Be aware that some people are allergic to chamomile.

Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis) vulnerary, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.  Excellent for inflammatory skin conditions, cuts and bruises, burns, insect bites, and athlete’s foot.

Rose (Rosa spp.) – cooling astringent.  Famous for imparting beauty.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) nervine, smells wonderful.  Helpful for burns and insect bites.

And what about the bag?  What can you use for a tea bag?  The idea that makes up for a lack of glamour by being the most convenient is the long lone tube sock.  Nylons can be used in a similar manner.  Just add the herbs and tie at the end.  Another terribly basic idea is the tea towel carefully tied into a knot.  Or for those with a sewing machine can make a muslin bag with a draw-string.  All of these “bags” can be washed and reused with new tea.  I also have some fancy tea bags that are sealed with heat from an iron.  These heat-sealed tea bags could be composted along with the herbs.

To Make  A Tub Tea

Put a few handfuls of blossoms and one handful of oatmeal into a “bag”.   Place this bag in a pot or a 4 cup measuring cup.  Pour boiling water over the bag and make sure that the boiling water is getting through the fabric and to the herbs.  Allow this to infuse while you prepare the bath.  Add the tub tea and the bag to the bath.  Now it is the simple matter of soaking it in.  Enjoy!

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

You need: -Paper  -Good solid cardboard  -Scissors or cutting edge  -Gluestick  -White glue or rubber cement  -Cheesecloth or similar fabric  -Pretty paper or fabric for covering  -More pretty paper for inside of covers -Thread and needle

As I mentioned once before, I managed to take a book-making course during my final year of art-school. We learned various techniques to make books, and some of the simpler ones I’ve outlined here. I did promise to go over the method of making a “real bound book”, though, and now it’s time to deliver on that promise! Happy New Year… let’s make us some books!

A classically bound book has a few elements. There is a cover, there are the pages, and there are the things that hold them all together.

The little parcels of paper pages that are sewn together to make the body of the book are called signatures. When I make a book, I make my signatures first. I decide on how many sheets will be in a signature, and then I decide on how many signatures will make up the book. In some situations, you might only have so much paper available, so this guides the size and number of pages in the book. A single piece of paper that is in a signature is actually four pages, if they were numbered within the finished book. A paper-piece in the signature is the height, and then twice the width, of the finished page, folded in half. You can layer two pieces of paper, or three, or four… or many. It depends on how thick your paper is. Normally, for “art-grade” paper (thicker) I would layer about two or three pieces of paper in a signature. An older book in my collection has about ten very thin, but strong, layers of paper in each signature.

In the inside of a signature, you will see the stitching. This is an old book, finely crafted.

Once you have decided on your layered papers for a signature, you fold the pages in half, re-layer them, and sew a little stitch or two down the centre. I recommend knotting at each stitch on the outside, binding edge of the work. This will add strength and stability to the binding, and to the signature. Use about three or four strands of thread to add even more durability. Make your stitches on the “inside” of the signatures about a half-centimeter, and make the stitches on the “outside” about two centimetres. Don’t worry about the outside, binding edge of the signature, it can be messy. You won’t see it later! If you were to rip the outer binding off of a finished book, though, you would see a mix of knots, threads, glue, and something similar to cheese-cloth covering the whole mess.

When you have a number of signatures ready to be bound, the next step is in to bring them together. I can’t show you this in person, unfortunately. But simply put, just weave a threaded needle between the threads that are on the “outside” of the signatures. Knot. Tie. Weave. Make it sewn together… keeping the thread OUTSIDE. Don’t puncture the papers again. This will all be hidden, so don’t worry if it looks bad. Just try to keep the inside of the pages neat-looking!

As soon as the signatures are bound together, you have the basics for a book. The next step is to make the cover. Cut two pieces of good cardboard to a little bit larger that the size of the inside pages. Good, solid cardboard is normally found in craft stores. If you don’t have any, use your imagination. You’ll want a material that is pretty tough, that you can cut, and that won’t roll up with a bit of moisture from something like glue. An old piece of rubber or plastic could be interesting…

Once you’ve cut the outer covers, you can cut a binding-cover, too. This is big enough to cover the ugly, outside edge of the bound-together signatures. It’s ok if it is a little thinner than the depth of the book. This piece just basically provides a little structure and protection to the sewn-together signatures. In some books this piece is rolled back and forth to form a rounded-binding, in others it is straight and flat. For your first book, though, perhaps just leave this piece flat.

One of my early books: Signatures, Three cardboard pieces to make the cover, Decorative covering. Note I also sewed some pretty gold thread along the edge of the bound signatures.

You need an outside surface for the covers… a piece of fabric, a piece of decorative paper… and old fancy pillowslip, a shiny satin skirt, anything that is pretty will do. You just need enough of this to cover the outside edge of the entire book. If your decorative paper or fabric is thin (like satin or fine paper) you should glue it to another piece of good, strong and flexible paper (such as rice-paper) first. Lay this piece out on your table, pretty-side down. Lay the two covers and the little binding-cover next to one another on this piece. Keep a small distance of about 1/8″ between the covers and the binding-cover. This space is important so that the covers can open and close… this is a hinge. Make sure that this pretty covering extends at least an inch past the edges of the cardboard covers. Rub a bit of glue-stick on the surface of the cardboard covers, then place them again on this pretty covering. Press flat with your hands, just making sure there are no “bubbles” or lumpy bits of glue. Fold the edges in, glue down to the inside of the book-cover with white glue or rubber cement. What you are doing is sort of like wrapping a present, and you are doing the outside first.

Next, take your bound signature-pages. Using a bit of cheese-cloth (or similar fabric… I’ve used a number of woven, light-weight fabrics at hand for this task), cover the ugly outside edge of the bound-together signatures. Make sure there is about two inches extending past the edge, as though the cheese-cloth wants to grow into a book cover. Rub white glue or rubber cement glue over the cheese-cloth, so that it is truly adhered to the outside edge of the binding. Let this set. Good time for a coffee or tea. Cake. A film. Really let THIS glue set.

Here you can see the "decorative inside page" that is glued to the front cover, and slightly glued to the front page of all those signatures.

FINAL ASSEMBLY: Once this signature-set is dry, take the cover that you’ve previously prepared, place the signature-set in place, and glue the cheese-cloth to the inside of the covers. It helps to know that there will be a final, decorative piece of paper attached to cover all the mess. I recommend using a bit of glue-stick, then closing the book to set for a few minutes. Open the book, and rub in some white glue. Close it again, and leave it at least half an hour to really set. You can check it a couple of times to make sure it hasn’t shifted, but be careful.

Once it is dry, the very last thing is to add a thicker, decorative paper to the inside of the covers. This paper is cut to just a little shorter that the original “double-page” size, and you need one for each inside cover. The function of this decorative paper is to cover the inside of the cover (remember the “wrapped present”?), and also to be a decorative front and back page. Glue (with white glue or rubber cement) one side to cover all the uncovered-part of the inside covers. Glue a little bit on the first page of the signature-bundle, so that it is stuck to this decorative paper… about 1/4″. This way the book is solidly made, and is held together by the cheese-cloth as well as the decorative paper. Set it aside… let it dry thoroughly. Press it between some heavy books, leave it overnight. It’s all in the layering…

This old book is made with a gently rounded binding-cover. You can see the importance of leaving space between the three pieces of cardboard, so that the covers can hinge.

When you examine an old book from your shelf, or look at my photos here, you will see the basic elements to a bound book. Don’t be afraid… my first bound book was a gluey mess. The binding-cover was cut too big. I used an ugly fabric to cover it. However, by making my own book, I was then inspired to work out a fun comic to live inside the book. This developed into the first storyline for my “Cluck and Lurt” comic series! Drawing in my own book was inspiring for me. I hope that you are inspired to try some book-making yourself.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Basic, basic, basic supplies are all that's needed for this gift. That, and an idea.

When I was a kid and Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day or Easter or a birthday or… any holiday rolled around, I would break out the felt pens and paper and glue and scissors. I would make my family and friends little imitations of “real world” honours, things like badges, crowns, and certificates. When I grew a little older I transferred this urge to cut, draw and paste my gifts into the idea of specialized coupons.

Coupons are great to offer services that cannot be wrapped up in a box: “One Free Car Wash”, “One Free Babysitting”, “One Dozen Cookies (need 24 hours notice)”, “A Vacuum of The Entire House”… you get the idea.

You could use some of the simple book-binding skills we covered the other day, as I did in the example below. Simple-simple! I just cut may paper to size, stapled once. I took care that the pointy-bits of the staple went to the inside. I also cut a little into each page just inside from the “binding”, so my coupon-recipient would find it easy to rip them out of the little book.

Easy gift: Proving that it's the thought that counts.

All of the papers in the Coupon Book were destined for Recycling… they’ll still be recycled, just are being diverted along the way.

Natasha Henderson in Montreal, wishing everyone a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas!

winter balm

I just made this!  It is a gift for some friends and myself. This winter balm is great for hands and feet, elbows and knees; it is good for anything that needs a little more care and attention in the winter.

How might you make this lovely winter balm?

Using a kitchen scale, measure the following ORGANIC ingredients in a clean saucepan:

15 g beeswax

30 g shea butter

30 g sweet almond oil

30 g calendula infused sunflower oil

30 g rosehip oil

Using a low heat, heat the oils and wax until these are homogenous, that is, all mixed together as one oil.

Then take the saucepan off the heat and add:

15 drops lavender oil

10 drops rose oil

5 drops vanilla absolute

Pour into clean glass containers.

Where can you pick up these ingredients?   Try a well-stocked health food store such as the one that just opened up on Notre Dame called Marché Bleuet.

I picked up the containers at Les Conserves du Fermier .

Labels… it’s a work in progress!

Perhaps you do not have a scale?  Remember that one tablespoon is about 15 g.  It does not have to be exactly as the above recipe to be amazing.  Great ingredients make it great.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

The book Random, Absurd Poetry is an externally bound book. You can see excerpts from this book on this website.

We’re getting into the crunch-time for gifts, be they DIY or store-bought. We all love DIY gifts… but who wants to shop for supplies right now? It’s mayhem out there! One thing you can make out of simple materials that you might have on hand, is a book.

A book’s construction has three basic elements: the covers, the pages inside, and some sort of binding-method. I won’t go into the intricacies of book-binding here, but I will suggest some simple ideas for book-making.

A long strip of paper glued together, and a couple of covers form a simple book.

When I took a book-making course back in college, the very first book we made was a zig-zag accordion format book. Basically, we took pieces of paper and glued them together to form a long strip, then folded that strip into a zig-zag. We then cut some hard board to a little larger than the folded pages, and glued the accordion of paper inside the two covers. Simple.

You could leave the book blank, or fill it with art, poetry, a story... etc.

Another idea for simple book-making is to just staple. Make your cover, make some pages for inside, and add a couple of staples to “bind” them all together. A lot of poets and underground zine publishers use this method to make their books.

A little more fancy idea, but very beautiful, is to create an external binding. I have three examples of this: in one, my friend used an elastic and a stick to bind his book. In the two others I used materials to “sew” the covers and pages together.

This poetry Chapbook is small, just a few pages held together with two staples.

Now, as for the covers, I do recommend a board that is not soft and mushy like corrugated cardboard. However, if that’s all you have, then perhaps gluing a couple of pieces together would be sturdy enough to use. You can cover the covers of your book with decorative paper or fabric, just wrap it like a present. On the insides of the covers glue another piece of paper on top to cover the ugly-bits nicely. Really take a good look at some of your older, bound books. You’ll see a real artistry to it. One of these days, maybe in February, I’ll go over some more intricate book-binding options.

My friend's book on the left, my book on the right. Just punch holes through the covers and insides of the book, and you can bind.

The insides of the book? That’s up to you! You could share a favorite family story, a children’s story, draw a cartoon, paste some photographs… share some favorite poems, or leave it blank. Everyone needs notebooks!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

I can’t believe how time is flying!  My posts are getting shorter and shorter and I am barely finding the time to cram in all of the last minute to-do’s.

Quickly, I will tell you about today’s DIY gift.  It is scented sachets.  This year I made some scented sachets with flannel to give to the kids in my family.  I attached a list of herbs and spices in the sachets so they can research this more.  It is a pretty traditional recipe.  Perhaps in the years ahead I will have the time to do something a little more creative.

roses, lavender, rosemary, cloves, allspice, star anise, orris root, sea salt

cool little sachets for the kids

Kay, gotta go!

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

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